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No more emotional support goats — or growling dogs — allowed, American Airlines says

Woman tries to board United flight with peacock as comfort animal

A woman flying from New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport on January 28 had her request to bring her emotional support animal on board declined by United Airlines – her support animal was a peacock. The Jet Set reported the woman purch
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A woman flying from New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport on January 28 had her request to bring her emotional support animal on board declined by United Airlines – her support animal was a peacock. The Jet Set reported the woman purch

No more insects, goats or hedgehogs that some passengers claim are "emotional support" animals will be allowed on American Airlines flights.

Neither will support dogs that growl at, jump on or try to bite other fliers.

American Airlines on Monday announced those and other restrictions as part of a new emotional support animal policy effective July 1.

Ferrets, amphibians, spiders, rodents, and snakes and other reptiles also are banned from the cabin "due to safety and/or public health risk," according to the policy.

American Airlines is based in Forth Worth, Texas. Its busiest hubs are, in order, Dallas/Fort Worth, Charlotte, Miami, Chicago O’Hare and Philadelphia.

In announcing the policy update, American Airlines said it supports "the rights of customers, from veterans to people with disabilities, with legitimate needs for a trained service or support animal. Unfortunately, untrained animals can lead to safety issues for our team, our customers and working dogs on board our aircraft."

American said it, like other carriers, has seen a significant rise in customers with a service or support animal on board — a more than 40 percent increase from 2016 to 2017.

In developing the changes, the airline said it met with such organizations as the American Association of People with Disabilities, Paralyzed Veterans of America, American Council for the Blind and My Blind Spot.

Passengers also must contact the American Airlines special assistance desk at least 48 hours before their flight to fly with an emotional support or psychiatric service animal in the cabin. While it now intends to to enforce the existing 48-hour advanced notice and pre-clearance policy, the airlines said, it also will have procedures in place for emergency travel booked within 48 hours of departure.

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In April, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., introduced legislation to protect the ability of people with disabilities — including veterans — to travel with trained service animals.

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Sorry, but you will no longer be able to claim your adorable pet hedgehog as an emotional support animal to take it with you in the cabin of an American Airlines flight, effective July 1. Charlotte Observer file photo

Under the legislation, people who have mental disabilities who need to travel with emotional support or "psychiatric service" animals may still be able to fly with their animals. But they would no longer receive the protections against discrimination afforded by the Air Carrier Access Act.

Those people would be subject to airline fees and airline-specific pet policies in the same way a person traveling with a pet would be. That could put Burr at odds with mental health advocates who see emotional support animals as a crucial part of treatment for some people with mental disabilities.

Delta Airlines and United Airlines also announced updated policies this year regarding what animals the airlines will allow in the cabin as emotional support for passengers. The airlines said aggressive animals prompted them to rethink their policies.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067; @jmarusak.

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